Monday, June 25, 2007

Save the Ship

I had just got done reading an excellent book called “Six Frigates” by Ian W. Toll and just afterwards a very strange thing happened to me. I talked with my friend Diane to see if she would accompany me on a trip to Boston to see the last surviving of the six original US Navy Frigates that were built in the late 1790s. The USS Constitution is the oldest naval war vessel still afloat anywhere. It has a long and glorious history of victories in battle. The USS Constitution goes undefeated in all of her battles including the one when they tried to scrap her in the 1830. A young Oliver Wendell Holmes is credited with saving the ship by writing the poem “Old Ironsides”. The public outcry to save the Constitution was so loud that it was saved and preserved for future generations.

Well, one morning I was on my way to my pickup truck after work and as I walking towards one of my coworker's pickup truck I could see there was something sticking up in the bed. As I got closer I could see what appeared to be a painting of some sort. I got to the side of his truck and I looked at this beat up work of art and to my astonishment it was a reproduction print of none other than the USS Constitution. I stood there for a moment totally aghast at the condition of this fine work of art and all I could think of was "it’s time now for me to save the ship". I hurried back into the shop and found the owner of the pickup truck and talked with him for a few minutes about the painting. The man found it at the curb for the trash so he stopped and threw it in the back of his pickup thinking he might use the frame for something. I asked him if I could have it so I could restore it to its once glorious state. My coworker said yes and I quickly made my way back outside before he changed his mind. I grabbed the piece by the frame and put it in the back of Maryjane and I was on my way home to see what I was going to need to fix this piece to restore it back to its proper dignity.

It has taken me about three weeks and yesterday I have finally finished this project of restoring this print and the frame. It is a signed and numbered print. The artist’s name is William J. Aylward and the print was made in Switzerland in 1947. I got some professional advice and help from an old friend that I hadn’t spoken to for some time but she knew exactly what I needed and advised me on some simple things I could to preserve this piece. It’s done and it looks fantastic and I am still amazed at the circumstances at which this piece came to me. Once again the USS Constitution has been saved by historically interested people. I haven’t decided where to display this work but I want to put it in a place where it will be seen and appreciated. The piece is worth a couple of bucks but to have future generations learn and understand the importance of such things is much more important to me.

The USS Constitution_William J. Aylward

Old Ironsides

Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!
Long has it waved on high,
And many an eye has danced to see
That banner in the sky;
Beneath it rung the battle shout,
And burst the cannon's roar; --
The meteor of the ocean air
Shall sweep the clouds no more.
Her deck, once red with heroes' blood,
Where knelt the vanquished foe,
When winds were hurrying o'er the flood,
And waves were white below,
No more shall feel the victor's tread,
Or know the conquered knee; --
The harpies of the shore shall pluck
The eagle of the sea!

Oh, better that her shattered hulk
Should sink beneath the wave;
Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
And there should be her grave;
Nail to the mast her holy flag,
Set every threadbare sail,
And give her to the god of storms,
The lightning and the gale!

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Music by [Dr]. William Lardner
[, Chevalier of the Golden Order of Poland (C. G. P.)]


Marie's Two Cents said...

What an absolutely beautiful restoration job you did on that painting.

That truly looks gorgeous.

If I ever find any beautiful paintings like that stuffed out in someones trash (In mostly decent condition of course) I know where to send em :-)

Anonymous said...

Did someone read the book to you?

J_G said...

Thanks Marie, I can't take all the credit. My friend that does professional framing gave me plenty of advice on what needed to be done. I am still in amazement about coming across this print.

I'll leave the anonymous comment up long enough for everyone to see the unsatisfactory way that the left uses to respond to common sense.

Joanne said...

Dear Jenn,

If you do come to Boston, I insist you come to my home and let me cook for you. I hear Old Ironsides every morning at 8 AM set off her canons and every evening at sunset.

I would be honored to show you around "The Cradle of Liberty."

What a incredible story.

And the poem touched my heart.

J_G said...

Thank you so much for the invitation Joanne. Everything is pointing to me taking a trip to Boston this year, I just have to work out some details for making the trip. The USS Constitution will fly my flag over her while I'm there and that's one of the things I want to do. We'll ride the train from Philly to Boston.

Joanne said...

I forgot to include this site for the Old State House, Boston.

And here is the site for Old Ironsides. Click on the link to "Flags" so you can see what you have to do to have yours flown. And since I can easily walk to Constitution Wharf, where she's docked, let me know if I can help you with getting your flag there.

J_G said...

Thanks Joane I will contact later today by email.

Mike's America said...

You'd think those anonymouse commenters would have something better to do with their time...

But then, YOU would think. A skill which apparently escapes the anonymouse.

Great print! Glad you could save it.

J_G said...

That anonymous came from your place Mike. They must have gotten their panties in a bunch from having their heads handed to them on the post about commies at your place.

SusieQ said...

Jenni, this is a fascinating story about how you ran across this print. It is one of those things that makes you wonder if it was meant to be that it fell into your hands. You know, FATE!

Honestly, Jenni, you are one resourceful woman...restoring that print and all.

I can visualize that print hanging in your den or library if you have one, or over your desk. Well done!

This talk about Boston and history has me interested in making a trip there myself with my hubby. Maybe next year when his health is better. Do you suppose Joanne would cook dinner for us too? Just kidding, Joanne.

J_G said...

It is amazing Susie. I really worked hard on it too. I cleaned up my basement and moved some of my workbenches around so I would have eough room. The frame is 36 x 30 inches. I took the whole thing apart very carefully and took my time. There were some minor water stains from the old backing around the border and I was able remove them by using clean filtered water and a special type of foam applicator. I did get professional help but I did the work. I put it back together with acid-free matting and paper dust shield on the back. The frame itself is what appears to be red oak. I stripped the old finish, it was damaged by some other type of paint. I refinished it with a retro color finish and satin polyurethane. The glass was in perfect condition and a little soap and water took care of that.

It was hard getting a good picture because of the glare and reflections from the glass. I'm not that good with photography but I'm working on it.

I do believe things happen for a reason and I don't think Joanne would mind cooking for us, she is very proud of her culinary expertise. I'm hoping I can pull this trip off. It sounds like so much fun.

Joanne said...


I'd be happy to do so.

patterns of ink said...

As you know, I love to hear (and tell)the stories behind things, and this one is all the better because once again the ship was a rescued treasure in the hands of someone who knew its worth as an image before knowing its worth as a numbered print hanging handsomely on your wall.
Your co-worker was kind to read the passion in your eyes about wanting it and to not be "a dog in the manger." (Aesop) If you somehow learned of something he/she was passionate about you could surprise him with an unexpected thank you.
If there would be no concern of causing "giver's remorse" you could simply print out this story. They may be reward enough for letting go of the find.

Way back when I used to teach English, I also taught speech. In the oral interpretation units, my students recited poems from memory and had to give a brief introduction. "Old Ironsides" was often chosen and I can still hear the voices of young students trying to sound ticked off on that opening line.

J_G said...

Hi Tom, I was getting rid of a dog training cage last week as part of my cleaning and "de-junking" my house and I went to my co-worker first to see if he would like first dibs. He said he didn't need one but appreciated the thought. I told him of the restoration and the mission now to find an appropriate place for the print to be displayed, maybe his son's grade school. I would just like to present it to the school and tell the story of the USS Constitution to the class. I don't think they teach things like that anymore. For me it's about passing down the tradition of the brave sailors that made this such a great ship.

Yankee Doodle said...

Ya done good there, lass!

I wish they could have saved the USS Enterprise (from WWII).

By the way: Why not leave the anonymous comment up there permanently? Nothing hurts the lefties more than their history....

J_G said...

Thanks for stopping by Yankee D!

A lot of historic ships have gone to scrapper that probably would be better as a museum. Right now San Francisco has refused to let the USS Iowa become a museum in it's harbor. They are truly un American un patriotic wack jobs that control San Francisco.

Right now in Philadelphia the SS United States is tied up waiting to see what happens to her. Back in the 50s she was the pride of America. I do hope they restore her to her original beauty.

I did leave anon up there sort of like they used leave the bodies of executed pirates hanging by the docks to warn other would be pirates that this would be your fate if you choose to become a pirate Arrgghh!